Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #492: How to Bake a Story

The promise was that this tip would be about how to put a story together. But my wife watches a lot of cooking shows, so that’s why it has that title.

Here’s how you do it…three steps to lay out.

1. Here’s a person in a situation. YOU decide which person’s “camera angle” you want to use. Is it the guy in the car wreck who’s pinned in his car? Or is it the person who pulls him from it? Is it you?

2. This is what happened, based on that point of view. Be visual, not too info or statistic-driven.

3. This is what that FELT like. Again, you can put yourself in whichever person’s shoes you want. It’s the Emotion that frames what you’ll say.

Stories don’t have to be long, either. Some of the best ones are very brief. True example:
The other day, my wife checked the Weather Channel app on her phone and said “The highest chance of rain we have is five percent.”

I said, “Ever?”

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #491: Where Stories Are Born

In the last tip, I wrote about getting away from Information and concentrating on Storytelling. That tip and this one grew out of an email conversation my associate John Frost and I had with the PD of a station we both work with. Let me share it with you…

It’s kind of like John Lennon wrote in “With a Little Help From My Friends” — “What do you see when you turn out the light?” was his question. For our purposes, it’s simply, “What do you see?”

When we’re in the grocery store, watching someone pick out a tomato with one hand while she holds her child’s stroller with the other. Or just staring out the window, and we see a leaf fall that signals the season changing. Or getting an email or text from an old friend you haven’t heard from in a long time. What catches our attention is the starting place. That’s where a story is born. Baseball great Yogi Berra said it best: “You can observe a lot by watching.”

I believe, and I’m sure Frost agrees, that telling stories is the most important ingredient in radio.
The next tip will be about how to put a story together.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #490: Information is Not a Story

Information and Stories are totally different. Yes, we use information in the telling of a story, but in coaching talent on storytelling, I’ve often found that they often do one or more of these three things:

(1) overshoot, trying to dress up so-called stories from Facebook or the internet that the listener may not care about at all,
(2) choose “stories” that are too full of factoids and details, or
(3) invent not-quite-plausible scenarios as a way to get in a line they thought of and were determined to use.

So here’s the deal:

Everything you and the listener have in common has a story behind it, and new stories get added to that memory pile every day – if you’re smart enough to capitalize on them.

“Just the facts, ma’am” is a police report. What happened, and the emotion(s) generated by that = a story.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #428: The Thing About Short Breaks

In the course of a “reboot” for a station, the first tactic is often to limit the length of breaks, and/or limit how many “Content” breaks there are in the hour.

The reaction is almost always the same: the air talent gripes about being “held back” or “not being given the time I need” to do Content.

I wish every air talent had taken a creative writing course in school, and/or written a LOT of commercials. It’s really important to learn about story construction – how to pull the listener in quickly, how a story moves from one point to another, how to be concise, and how to provide an ending that takes us somewhere, instead of just some lame “moral of the story” wrap-up or obvious punch line.
And it’s equally important to be able to fit something over a song intro, where you only have a few seconds.

The bottom line is that skill in constructing and telling a story + having time restrictions = expertise in written or spoken word. Sounding relaxed, but being as brief as possible, can quickly make everyone ELSE sound like they can’t shut up. That’s a huge advantage for you!

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #418: Composition!

With the emphasis put on storytelling nowadays, a lot of air talent is left in the dark, with no real coaching on HOW to become better at it. COMPOSITION is the missing skill a lot of the time. So here are three guidelines that I coach:

1. As you prep the break (or podcast), pay attention to what needs to be left OUT. Most C-level stories have too many “scenes”, too many names, or too many plot points that really aren’t necessary. Weed them out.

2. Endings are the second-most pressing need for improved storytelling. Avoid trying to “tie a neat bow around it” at the end. “Aesop’s Fable” endings are fine for children, but can sound sappy or redundant to most people. You’ll stand out more by NOT doing this. The same goes for the “self-help book” type of ending. Ick. Knock off the moralizing, please. And the ending should always be something that WASN’T said earlier in the break. Surprise me.

3. The first place where something unexpected is said is probably going to be the best ‘exit’. Taking the First Exit is surprising in itself, because most people drive right past it.

Hope this helps you.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #417: A Basic Storytelling Kit

This came up in a music radio session the other day with a morning team. Here’s an excerpt from their recap…

A key to the telling of any story is to think about how it unfolds. Just “winging it” is what real people do, but that’s not what sets apart air personalities and storytellers. You want to be constantly pointing forward, moving forward, to the next thing – that “reveal” that advances the story.

Example: You started the second News story with “…and alligators do not make good teammates…” followed by “(City) FC is based in Orlando Florida this year, and during Monday’s practice the team got a surprise…”

Gee, wonder what it will be? It’s certainly not a ’surprise’ anymore, because of the opening sentence. Flip those two lines around, and you tell a story. Say them in the order you did, and it lands with a thud.

This is the simplest example of the art of storytelling, and, as a result, pulling people closer to you.

Here are three ‘bonus crayons’…
(1) leading to the obvious will kill the story.
(2) So will repetition.
(3) And the Ending should always be something that wasn’t said earlier in the break.

You want to get concise, but still sound conversational and spontaneous.

Even if this is just a refresher course for you, I hope these thoughts help you. Be great today. Do something that someone might remember.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #400: One Story at a Time

You hear a great story. Then you hear another one. But the odds are overwhelming that you’ll only remember one of them.

A story can’t set up a story. That should be TWO breaks.

In Music Radio, the reason for this is usually just a lack of discipline. Or ego.

The cure: ONE story per break.

In Talk Radio, we often hear the host tell a story, then bring on a guest, who then tells another story. Or even worse, we often hear the host tell most of the story while introducing the guest, then that person comes on and tells the longer, more detailed, and often more boring version.

The cure: Make it simpler; more compact. Do a SHORT intro, then just let the guest tell his (or her) story. Then, INSTEAD of launching into a story of your own (which can come across like you’re trying to “top” the other person), simply REACT to the other person’s story.

This discipline is what I often refer to as “The Barney Fife Method” – meaning, like the deputy on the old Andy Griffith Show, Barney only HAD one bullet. I constantly tell people “Fire your one bullet. Then you have to ‘go back to the courthouse’ to get another one.”

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #374 – Dog Chasing Its Tail

The other day, I heard a morning team launch into a subject that should have taken about ten seconds to set up, but they took 4 times that. The classic “dog chasing its own tail” scenario. Lots of activity; no real progress.

Without quoting them, let’s compare it to a movie. Where the scene description would be “Doorbell rings. Then cut to the door being opened,” we instead got the meaningless (and uninteresting) details. The wife heard the doorbell ring, then told her husband, who was chilling out on the couch, to answer it, and even though he didn’t want to, he made himself get up and do it anyway…blah, blah, blah.

Cut to the chase, for crying out loud. Remember this:

Too many words “getting started” always leads to a letdown at the end – if the listener even makes it TO the end. The impact will always be reduced, no matter what.

Doorbell rings. You answer it. WHAT HAPPENED? THAT’S the important part.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #362 – Stories Aren’t About What Happened

This may sound counterintuitive, but stories aren’t about what happened.

For our purposes as air talent, they’re about what we FELT about what happened. The Emotion is the core, and that’s the thing that connects with the listener.

If all you can bring to the table is just some comment with no real emotion attached to it, or just some stupid punch line, you’re not going to connect.

Focus FIRST on the Emotion. THEN put the story together.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #347 – It’s Always About the Story

It’s ALWAYS about the Story.

I remember a couple of seasons ago, a contestant on “Survivor” told about his getting back home after the show was taped just in time to see his mom before she passed away. Time just STOPPED as I imagined that scenario in my own life. (This is just one reason why Survivor has lasted so long.)

YOUR responsibility as an air talent is to make the story as concise and as easy and logical sounding as you possibly can. Survivor is the best-edited show in the history of television; a perfect model for film editors and writers…and storytellers.

You’ll know a great break, a great story, when it takes virtually NO editing to make a promo out of it.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.